Pick Ten! A Closer, more intimate, review of 2007.
Unlike past years, where I kept updating the "perfect" top 40, I thought I'd try a different tact. Pick 10 albums that did it for me and leave it at that. Of course, as always, feel free to disagree. In fact feel free to do anything damn thing you wish. It's a free country; unless that is the damn Republicans win the white house again.
1. Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (Merge). Whatever genre you may think their alt consciousness falls into, know this. These Canadians are the best damn thing to hit popular music since Johnny Rotten had a hard-on for the queen of England. And like the aforementioned icon, Win Butler doesn't hold anything back, nor betray any false pretenses. His fears and angst go hand in hand with his contempt, primarily for religion and police states - the stuff of most great works of art. While he may not have any answers to offer his minions, such shortcomings - if they be shortcomings at all - never diminish the music which rocks with endless abandon, nor lessen the warnings contained within the lyrcis. Only alt-grundge snobs would deny him his props. A plus.
2. M.I.A.: Kala (Interscope). While I agree on principle that comparing this album to her first - Arula - is like comparing Kanye West's first two albums - the first was for the critics; the latter for the fans - that would be a bit too simplistic. Truth be told, claims that this album is less political than her debut is like saying that Marx was an Hegelian with an over-developed sense of pragmatism. Her politics along with her sense of rhythm are inseparable. She briefly toyed with the idea of joining with Timbaland, then wisely thought better of it. The last thing this Sri Lanken needed was help in the beat department. Her strengths are her sarcasm and defiance, and if her left-leaning politics continue to keep her on the CIA watch list, thus barring her from entry into the U.S., my gut tells me that is perfectly OK with her. Come to think of it, it's perfectly OK with me too. A plus.
3. Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy). While lines like "There were never any good old days/They are today, they are tomorrow/It's a stupid thing we say/Cursing tomorrow with sorrow" may never pass muster as a replacement for the famous "one day at a time" reference used at twelve-step meetings, it's about as clever a line as any body has managed to come up with in quite some time. That's mainly because Eugene Huntz isn't your typical sharp-witted punkrocker; he's a paragon of reason surrounded by a band of anarchists who are anything but typical in their own right. Picking up right where their debut left off, their brand of gypsy-fueled, eastern-European punk is as relentless as it is optimistic. That's where the paragon of reason comes in. If you don't get the irony of songs like "Your Country" and "American Wedding," you needn't worry. If Huntz' words don't grab you the music will, and, most assuredly, will never let go of you. Don't fight it, just go with it. A.
To be continued...